A tale of two masks

While I wait for my Celtic FC mask to come from the Celtic FC Store – the latest news is that they’re releasing them into the wild on 28 July and hopefully it will arrive on these shores a week later – I bought another green-and-white mask from an artist on RedBubble a few months ago that I wear nearly on a daily basis, with daily washings of course. With a face that is perfect for a mask, it looks like this:

Protecting a face only a mother could love against Covid-19 while wearing the Hoops . . . .

I also have a FC St. Pauli mask sent from Hamburg that I wear almost daily (same cleaning regimen) as well. It looks like this:

. . . and warding off the virus with a skull-and-crossbones, courtesy of FC St. Pauli.

In this new era of mandatory facialwear, it is common to see people wearing masks of their favourite sports teams; here it would be baseball or American football or basketball. In my current jobs as a freelance writer and as a part-time supermarket bookkeeper, I get a hefty dose of interaction with the public, especially at the supermarket.

In broad terms, the computer engineers I mostly work with in writing software/hardware documentation are not the most football-fanatic people, as you might imagine, and they don’t really care what’s on my face.

But the general public that come into the store? Well, that’s another, and slightly different, story.

The supermarket I work in is in a small town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Silicon Valley. Many people live here and work there and there are a few football fans in the area, mostly fans of the nearby MLS franchise, the San Jose Earthquakes.

Other than Mike, a regular customer to the store and a fan so beholden to FC Bayern Munchen that he often wears the full adidas Bayern training kit into the store (while handing out Bayern stickers to anyone who wants one), I don’t come across many people I personally know who follow football.

However, there are some who visit the store who wear their allegiances on their clothes – caps, T-shirts, etc. – and the occasional kid with his favorite team jersey; one kid, who I call Ronaldo, comes in wearing a Juventus jersey all the time.

In any case, I always strike up conversations with people I think may even remotely have an interest in football because, well, there’s not that many of us around. And even those who aren’t: One day, a woman came in to exchange a product and I noticed she had a Saltire on her wallet.

“Ah, you’re Scottish,” I said.

She nodded. I smiled underneath my mask.

“Do these green-and-white stripes mean anything to you?” I asked, pointing to my face.

She just looked at me and said, “No.”

Definitely a Rangers fan.

Then there’s the Liverpool FC fans. I’ve encountered several at the store over the past few months. I am always gracious, truthfully so, in bringing up what a good manager Jurgen Klopp is (and he is), while congratulating them on having a great season in winning the league (which they did).

When my support for Celtic comes up, they always respond – every time and without fail — with something about . . . Steven Gerrard.

Every. Damn. Time.

“Right, the manager who can’t win a trophy to save his life,” is my most common response.

Or, “Right, the guy who slipped against Chelsea and lost the title for The Reds.”

Or, mostly to myself, “Yeah, well, maybe you should walk alone. Off a cliff.”

The FC St Pauli mask does not get many responses, other than fear because of the skull-and-crossbones. However, I did have a conversation with a German woman who, seeing my FC St. Pauli mask, was surprised that anyone in the U.S. would even remotely consider supporting Die Kiezkicker. But yep, here we are – flying the antifascist flag even in small towns in America.

Nevertheless, if you’re going to cover your face – and you should – you might as well make a statement, and supporting your club (or clubs) is the best way to go.

[Blogger’s note: Thanks to a glitch that originated, I think, either with my ISP’s transfer of this site to a new server or a boneheaded move on my part adjusting my WordPress settings, two recent blog posts — here and here — regarding Celtic’s games in France did not appear on the Celtic News Now feed. Fearing that I had been unceremoniously waived by the Hoops news aggregator, I later found that it was a setting, not my writing, that was the culprit.]

When Jinky played for San Jose

Jimmy Johnstone’s post-Celtic career included a short cup of coffee with the San Jose Earthquakes of the North American Soccer League.

There would be only a handful of reasons for me to blog outside my usual Tuesday/Thursday/gameday schedule, but this is definitely one of them: Happy Birthday to the Celtic legend of legends, Jimmy Johnstone.

But before you continue here, I would strongly urge you to read this celebration of Jinky’s life on The Celtic Star by Matt Corr before I tell you a tale of our favorite Lisbon Lion and a tiger — I will gladly wait.

Thanks for coming back.

Jinky knew the way to San Jose, but his introduction to the North American Soccer League (NASL) came with a little controversy. According to an Associated Press wire report in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on June 18, 1975: “Jimmy Johnstone, Scotland’s ‘Flying Flea’ of soccer, signed a one-year contract with the San Jose Earthquakes . . . despite protests from two other teams.” So Johnstone was in demand at the time, being wooed by three NASL teams — the Rochester Lancers in New York and the San Antonio Thunder in Texas (incidentally, San Antonio would also have the services of Harry Hood, and we’ll touch on that in an upcoming post in the near future) — but he chose to sign with San Jose.

Much of the San Jose season that year, where they finished fifth in the Pacific Division, was inauspicious, and unfortunately Jinky did not play a factor — as much as anyone can play a factor in a fifth-place finish.

But Jinky did have his admirers. During the San Jose-New York Cosmos game that year, according to Celtic Wiki, lining up for New York was none other than Pele. The Brazilian star reportedly ran the length of the field to shake hands with Jinky and give him a pat on the back. According to the post, this delighted Jimmy and he turned in his best show for the Earthquakes.

And there was that one game — his first as a Quake in 1975 — where the Lisbon Lion met a tiger on the sideline.

The weekend following Johnstone’s signing with San Jose, Jinky played against the Portland Timbers. According to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel previewing the game, “Bombay, a tiger from Marine World Africa USA, will serve as the security guard for the Portland bench.” (Not only that, the Associated Press had a picture of Jinky with the tiger, however it was unreproduceable from the microfilm).

The “security,” as it turned out, stemmed from a confrontation during the previous Quakes-Timbers game, and if Portland was bringing their tiger, it was only fair that San Jose had its “lion.”

Johnstone’s foray into the NASL, a forerunner to the current Major League Soccer in the U.S., was a common theme in 1970s American soccer. The fledgling league tried to get a foothold in the American sports fans’ consciousness by bringing top, albeit past-their-prime, players to American teams. Jinky was part of the wave that saw stars like Giorgio Chinaglia, Franz Beckenbauer and Pele dominate for Cosmos, while other stars like Harry Hood played for San Antonio and Gordon Banks kept goal quite adequately for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the club I followed growing up in South Florida.

And Jinky clocked in briefly for San Jose.

Decades later, it seems that those trailblazers have left a solid legacy on the American version of the game on these shores. So for that, thank you for your contribution, and happy heavenly birthday, Jinky!

[64 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Low.]